At the risk of sounding like a broken record, regular readers of this blog will know that back in January I started a simple mission- to lose the last of my baby weight, get fit and above all feel better about myself. After years of starting faddy diets or exercise attempts and then sticking to them for literally a few days, I didn't hold out much hope that this time would be different.
But this time it has been different. I have found a passion in running and I can honestly say that it has changed my life. It has made me feel like a new person and I am loving the way it has changed my mind set, my body and my health. I have gone from having many wasted gym memberships, horrific attempts at Zumba classes and getting out of breath when walking up the stairs to signing up to three races this year so far, including two half marathons. I never ever would have thought I would be typing that.
I am by no means an expert on running nor have I had any professional advice on starting out, but I get lots of messages and emails from people asking me different questions about my running journey. I thought I would put together some of the ones I get asked the most. I really am just a beginner and this is just my thoughts- it might not be right, but I love to read about other people's fitness journeys and I read a lot of running blogs, so I hope that these questions will help anyone who wants to start running but is scared to give it a go...
Had you ever run before?
No. I used to run cross country at school once a year and hated it and that was literally it. I have never run regularly before and thought it was something I really wouldn't enjoy but I really love the way it makes me feel. I have never stuck at regular exercise, having so many wasted gym memberships but I have stuck to running so far.
How did you start?
I just ran. I know that there are a lot of Couch to 5k programmes which encourage you to get the best out of running by combining slow walks with running over a period of a few weeks but I didn't bother with this. I literally just started running a mile, slowly without stopping. Then after a week or so I began to add a mile or so each time with the aim to get to 5k. (approx 3.1 miles) I never ran flat out, preferring to just go steady. If I felt like I needed to stop or walk for a few seconds I would do, and then I carried on. Within a couple of weeks I could run 5k without stopping, although sometimes I was quicker than others.
What trainers do you use?
When I first started running I just used my regular old Nike Airs and my very unused gym kit. However I found that my feet and knee were hurting after each run, so much so that I would be in a lot of pain. After some research I decided to go to my local Up and Running store to seek their advice. They have a fabulous service where they analyse your running style on a treadmill and they found that I over pronate which basically means my foot turns outwards when running. They suggested I needed a sturdier shoe so recommended me the Saucony Guide 7's which have a bit more support than a normal trainer. They weren't cheap, about £100ish, but since that day I haven't had any more pain. It's worth the investment for something that I use a lot but if you haven't got pain then I am sure normal trainers will do the trick.
Do you have any special kit?
Yes and no. I just use my regular old gym kit for running. (check out Aldi who bizarrely do really cheap but nice gym stuff!) I also have a great cheap sports bra from TK Maxx which keeps my wobbly bits in check. My only indulgence rather than my trainers is my Nike Sports Watch which Mr E bought me for my birthday. It keeps track of your times, distance, calories and route and I wouldn't be without it.
How do you record your results?
Although some people just run and don't care about beating their own records, I find it motivates me to see if I am improving. When I first started I used to run with my iPhone and record the times with Nike Plus, it is free from the App store and I can't recommend it enough. There is like a little community on there, you can see how your friends have run, what their personal bests are and challenge each other to compete. It is really motivating to try and beat your results each time. I now use the watch which syncs back to the community each time. I also use FitSnap to post my photos to Instagram as I like to have a record of each run- this is also free and I love to play around with it. Although not everyone's cup of tea, I love to post my photos to social media as I find other people's photos really inspiring.
How often and how far do you run?
I normally try to run at least two times a week, but I aim for three. I do two short runs, I have found a perfect 5k route that leads me back to my house so I do that in the week and then I do a longer run at the weekends. I have been slowly building up my miles (I read somewhere you should increase your distance by 10% each week) and so far the most I have run is 8 miles as sometimes I don't have time to do a longer run. I actually find that I enjoy the longer runs more as I don't push myself as hard as I am trying to keep my stamina going. Life gets in the way sometimes though and I have been poorly quite a bit recently so that has occasionally stopped me from running.
Do you run flat out?
I don't run at my maximum level as I find that I get so tired that I don't enjoy the run. I do know that you are supposed to do interval running (e.g run as fast as you can for a minute then slow down and repeat) but as yet I haven't tried this. I basically run at probably 70% of my maximum stamina and then occasionally push myself a little bit harder.
How do you find the time?
I used to be one of these people that said I don't have time for exercise but a 5k run takes me less than half an hour. I used to make excuses but the reality is if I can sit and absent mindedly flick through social media for an hour, I can fit in a run. I normally go just when my husband has come home from work, after I have given the girls dinner as I find once we have got them to bed I cannot be bothered and lack motivation. At the weekends I go when they are napping in the afternoon or I sent my alarm earlier and go out before they wake up.
What do you eat before a run?
I really don't know what the proper way is here, but I find that if I eat before hand I feel sick. So if I go out first thing in the morning I won't eat breakfast and if I go out in the afternoon I will make sure that I haven't eaten for at least an hour beforehand. I then will drink lots of water and eat a cereal bar, some fruit or a smoothie when I get back.
Do you listen to music?
Yes. I know that a lot of people say, especially in races, that you shouldn't listen to music, but I really enjoy putting on my music and running. I turn it down low enough so I can still concentrate on my breathing and hear if there are any cars or people nearby. I do get bored of my music so change my playlists often, Mr E got me an iPod shuffle for my birthday as a present from the girls so it's lightweight to use when I am out and about.
What are your personal bests?
I really find that pushing myself to beat my goals helps keep me motivated. I started off in January running 5k in about 33 minutes and 10k in an hour and as of today my personal bests are 25.09 for my 5k and 54.22 for my 10k. I obviously don't beat these every time but I get excited when I do! They aren't particularly fast compared to some people but I enjoy getting a buzz from breaking my own records.
What keeps you motivated?
I really do struggle sometimes to get out there and run, usually I find the first half a mile hard and want to turn back. It sounds cheesy but I try and think to myself about how far I have come and how I feel now when I find a pair of my jeans fit well that haven't fit for years. I also have signed up for three races- a 10k in June and 2 half marathons in August and October so I have something to aim towards. Having a goal definitely keeps me motivated and training so I plan to sign up to lots of races next year too.
Have you changed your diet?
Yes and no. I had a pretty horrific diet before, eating large portions and being a real victim of snacking. Myself and my husband had got in the habit of having a 'treat' most evenings- sharing a large bar of chocolate or a packet of biscuits. To initially lose the weight I cut down on my portions and eliminated the snack element of my diet. However now I am down to my goal weight, I do endulge and will have at least a couple of treats a week, I just make sure that I don't go as crazy as I used too. I have just been doing small things that make a difference, like eating more fruit and veg, and swapping things like normal potatoes for sweet potatoes.
What results have you seen so far?
I used to get out of breath walking up the stairs so running has dramatically helped my fitness levels and my overall wellbeing. I have also managed to lose just over a stone and a half in weight and lose five inches from around my tummy. I also have gone from a dress size 12-14 to an 8-10 which I haven't been since I was in my early 20's. I definitely contribute all of this to running and whilst I still have a wobbly tummy, I am now proud as I can say that this is definitely just from having two babies rather than too many cupcakes!
***This post may be a little self-indulgent and like I said, I am most certainly not an expert, just a beginner who is really enjoying it. But I know that I love to hear about other people's running so I hope that this may help anyone thinking about starting to run. I can honestly say that it is one of the best things I have ever done. If you prefer photos of my ladies, then they will be back soon, just mixing it up a bit! ;) ***